Monday, May 27, 2024

Writer Joy on the Pickle Ball Court By Robert Ronning


Purchase on Amazon: HERE

Along about midday I crave escaping from my desk, acutely aware that a static writing life could lead to a shorter life. I’ve tried aerobics and weights, golf, cycling, and just plain walking, all in quiet desperation to complete another novel or two before I drift off to join carefree writers in the great beyond. I’ve tried alternative writing stations: standing desk, treadmill, a laptop actually on my lap in an easy chair … alas, all roads lead back to a standard chair and desk.

Yet the writer body cries out for movement, which drew me to pickleball. If you’re from Planet Wack-ado and you haven’t heard about pickleball, here are a few words about this fastest growing sport, with courts sprouting in converted mall space, abandoned tennis courts, and HOAs. They are popping up everywhere to accommodate a tidal wave of retired boomers, including those nursing old sports injuries and looking for less demanding exercise. (Warning: Pickleball is demanding; urgent care clinics are treating eager older players suffering a variety of court injuries—I’ve got a drawerful of ACE wraps for securing a limb or a hinge during play.)

Once I was a jaded golfer carrying a heavy handicap, begrudging the time spent hitting a little white ball until I found a new passion in pickleball. In only half the time I spent on golf, I could duck away from my desk for a few rounds of hitting a plastic ball with a paddle.

As writers are wont, I imagine pickleball as an action-filled venue with compelling characters, my chosen site being the Y’s basketball court. Action unfolds through a variety of plot lines; dramatic faceoffs easily stray into comedy or slapstick. As for characters, the game has its usual suspects—think of childhood back on the school playground at recess. Now, it’s bickering and clowning adults, player cliques, and much laughter. As the sport has flourished, the only real drawback is the waiting time between games. Still, idleness offers a chance to socialize—the buzz of voices trading gossip and backstories is usually worth the time. 

I’ve cautioned newbies to the game that pickleball is quite addictive. There’s always a core group of intense competitors who get an extra high on the sport. At a game’s end, panting foursomes usually walk off the court with smiley faces, win or lose, as if they’ve just returned from a ticket to paradise. Gathering together to play a few times a week, there’s mostly an aura of joy and camaraderie.

Crucially, I don’t think the game would be half as much fun without the gender mix. An agile or athletic woman will play the game at a high level against a macho man who just hates being scorched by the opposite sex. 

Enough said. Now I’m off to play a few more games and escape the paralyzing stasis of the deskbound. 

Robert Ronning writes about wildlife and conservation, and published his adventure novel, Wild Call to Boulder Field in 2023. He and wife Kathleen live in Tucson and summer in a cabin in Arizona’s White Mountains, a few minutes daily dog walk from National Forest and wildlife. He considers his proudest achievements rescuing and assisting the rescue of lost dogs. A recovering golfer, now an avid Pickleball player, he likes to unwind with a crossword puzzle. See 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Building a Galaxy by Daniel Dickinson


PART 2: Gaiman’s Galaxies

“If you like fantasy and you want to be the next Tolkien, don’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies—Tolkien didn’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies, he read books on Finnish philology. Go and read outside of your comfort zone, go and learn stuff.” – Neil Gaiman

In contrast to Tolkien’s lush but laser-focused realm of Middle Earth stand the vast worlds and dimensions of Neil Gaiman. A “feral child who was raised in libraries,” as he calls himself, the award-winning author of Stardust, American Gods, and Coraline among others, uses broad paint strokes to create a larger-than-life world where mythology and denizens of alternate dimensions play a key part in expanding the borders of reality. Deep, dark, and dreary, Gaiman’s strange domains are equally as vibrant as Tolkien’s. Where the two authors differ substantially is in their approach to world-building.

Where Tolkien’s Middle Earth emerges of necessity as his characters move through their journey, Gaiman’s alternate realities play an integral part in his stories. For example, American Gods uses gods, themselves, as characters— diving deep into their milieu to drive the narrative. Thus, although the story takes place in a recognizable U.S., the Old and New Gods’ otherworldly mythology is very present.

Here is an example from Chapter 6 of American Gods to illustrate: “When the people came to America they brought us with them. They brought me, and Loki and Thor, Anansi and the Lion-God, Leprechauns and Kobolds and Banshees, Kubera and Frau Holle and Ashtaroth, and they brought you. We rode here in their minds, and we took root. We traveled with the settlers to the new lands across the ocean. The land is vast. Soon enough, our people abandoned us, remembered us only as creatures of the old land, as things that had not come with them to the new. Our true believers passed on, or stopped believing, and we were left, lost and scared and dispossessed, only what little smidgens of worship or belief we could find. And to get by as best we could."

Giving these unearthly characters the freedom to roam both current and past timelines of a familiar quasi-reality instantly expands the scope in which he’s writing. Gaiman’s skill is such that he accomplishes this feat without its ever feeling heavy handed or out of place. As he explains, “When you start writing you’re in a profession which involves making stuff up and inventing stuff. You’re making up people, you’re making up places; you’re talking about things that manifestly aren’t true.“

As in American Gods, the title character of Coraline dives into an alternate dimension of her world. Dark and twisted, it has its own set of rules that govern reality as she moves through it. In one world she finds herself ignored and alone; in the other she is the concentrated focus of attention and is given everything she ever wanted. Gaiman economically presents the “through-the-looking-glass” dimension in this excerpt from Chapter 10:

"Stay here with us," said the voice from the figure at the end of the room. "We will listen to you and play with you and laugh with you. Your other mother will build whole worlds for you to explore, and tear them down every night when you are done. Every day will be better and brighter than the one that went before. Remember the toybox? How much better would a world be built just like that, and all for you?"

Gaiman plays a multiverse of realities to great effect in most of his books. Typically, several realities simultaneously exist within his novels. Even if only briefly hinted at, like those in American Gods, these multiple existences expand time and space and give the reader a sense of grand scale. “Everybody has a secret world inside of them,” he says. “I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world—I mean everybody—no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds... Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” 

Like Coraline, some of Gaiman’s stories focus solely on one or two dimensions; however, the presence of a greater cosmos outside the characters purview is there, ever-present in the shadows of the story. His novel, Stardust, unfolds in a multiverse: The star that fell had to come from somewhere. As readers, we have previous knowledge regarding time and space of real-world, earthly England situated in the Milky Way; in another dimension, we also have Stormhold and its galaxy. By using his readers’ prior knowledge and understanding of how the world works, and their preconceived notions of time and space, Gaiman has freed himself from the necessity of writing minutely detailed descriptions—as Tolkien was obliged to write of Middle Earth. 

While the multiverse of his stories is expansive, he tethers an alternate reality to a character’s story arc in a way that makes it relatable to a reader. Gaiman uses the established notion of mythology as a springboard for the metaphors distinguishing many of his stories. Threads of this can be seen around the religious aspects of Gaimen’s world-building: He uses various spiritual beliefs and deities to bring together a greater diversity of thoughts and imaginations.

“Religions are, by definition, metaphors, after all,” he says. “God is a dream, a hope, a woman, an ironist, a father, a city, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you—even, perhaps against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all opposition.” 

Gaiman’s approach can seem daunting if you’re just beginning. However, as I previously mentioned, it has one major advantage: You don’t need to build what you already have. Almost everyone knows what a stop sign is, understands a gas station, or can imagine a certain American or British town or city. Thus, by utilizing a story set in a world that you, as an author, already inhabit, you put much of the world-building into the hands of your reader.

You may run into issues when the world you’re building becomes fantastical, or rockets through space at near lightspeed, and you suddenly find yourself responsible for an entire cosmos of information, history, conflict, and environments. But that’s where the real fun begin

Beginning at the age of ten, Arizona native Daniel Dickinson has spent a lifetime inventing realistic realms for his fictional characters. His fantasy world, Xonthian— created during his teen years—is an entire domain that allows his characters’ journeys to unfold in a diverse setting. He enjoys giving educational presentations about world-building and fantasy genres, in general. Daniel’s published works include the short story, Escape from Ogre Island; a two-story horror book, Don’t Close Your Eyes: Two Thrilling Tales of Terror; Aggression Factor; and Gathering Tide. More about Daniel at and

Monday, May 13, 2024

Sound, the vibration that created the universe - by Vijaya Schartz

 Sound is a vibration we can perceive, but all vibrations emit sounds. Some of them too high or too low on the scale for us to hear. Although, some animals hear a wider range than we do. Sound is everywhere and sound is powerful.

Vibrations create everything, and according to modern science, the solid matter around us is made of atoms that vibrate in perpetual motion. Change the vibration rate of the atoms and you create a different matter. Outlandish? Not really. People do it every day in their kitchen. By heating food too much you burn it. Through the process of heating, you changed the vibration of the atoms in the food, and turned it into charcoal.

Ancient writings say the universe was created through the vibration of sound. In the beginning was the WORD (sound). Interestingly, the planets emit audible vibrations different for each one, so does our sun and all the stars.

Our bodies are made of vibrating atoms as well, even if we do not feel it. But there is a way to experience it. Boost the volume on that sound system and you can feel the base pounding throughout your body. Get close to a rumbling waterfall, and you will feel it in your bones.

According to the ancient Greek, music is a gift of the gods and has been called mathematics in action. Music also has the power to transport us, alter our moods, even elevate our spirits. I remember having out of body experiences while listening to Gregorian chant in church as a child. I was floating high under the arches, disembodied, free, I was flying through the air. It was a wonderful feeling.

The Native American tribes use drums and chanting to create a trance-like state in which to get insight, wisdom, prophecy, a connection with the natural forces of the universe, and higher spiritual understanding.

Monks in India and Tibet chant for hours each day, creating a vibration liable to elevate their soul, body, and spirit to a higher level of spiritual understanding. Temple chanting in India uses the power of mantras special words with spiritual power, like Ohm… In these traditions, mantras have sacred and transformative powers. There are even places where the sound of the mantra never ends and is reverberated by the earth and the sky.

Vijayanagara in India is a sacred place with temples dedicated to musical sounds. Each temple column emits a different sound when struck, to create sacred music that could lift the gods’ vimanas (spacecraft). According to their traditions, the gods were aliens who came to earth in spacecraft, and lived and taught the people and waged great battles in the sky and on other planets.

Lifting spacecraft through chanting not scientific enough for you? Think. Magnetism and infra-sound technology can counteract gravity. And in labs in every country, scientists are studying sound to develop antigravity technology for future space exploration.

All in all, we are made of vibrations that can be altered by sound. We should work on sound research to help all the people on Earth have stress-free, happy, peaceful, harmonious lives… and explore the universe.

You can also explore the universe in my books. I recommend the Azura Universe, with the Byzantium Space Station series, the Azura Chronicles, and the Blue Phantom series. 


Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Monday, May 6, 2024

New Book Release: The Dirty End of the Needle by Elizabeth Ajamie Boyer


Click cover to see on Amazon

Luke slammed the front door. He stormed to his car, getting in. The car was the little Honda Civic Papa bought him when he turned sixteen. He drove toward the highway as heat waves rose off the road in the scorching summer morning. These last days of August were the hottest Phoenix had experienced in a few years. The extreme heat in Arizona summers caused weird wavy mirage lines. Very often the temperatures could be over one hundred degrees by ten a.m. Even the northernmost highways in the State were sizzling hot.

From the front porch, Theo watched the dust blow up off the driveway as Luke went down the road. Shaking his head in disgust, he turned away to his work.

Papa’s once strong frame slowly wilted after Luke drove out of the driveway that day. Like the sensitive plants Mother nursed in front of the porch, he struggled against the heat of Luke’s wrath.

Elizabeth Ajamie-Boyer is a committed Christian who is married to TJ Boyer. They have two children and three grandchildren. She has an Associate’s degree and Licensed Practical Nurse License from South Mountain Community College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Arizona State University. She loves writing, the arts, and travel. Her camera is her friend. She dedicates all her poetry and books to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.